Seven Seas Mariner - Alaska: Seven Seas Mariner Cruise Review by dbmacruise
Overall Member Rating
Seven Seas Mariner - Alaska
Departure was in Vancouver, a wonderful city. We flew in the night before so we didnt have a lot of time. If you book a hotel independently, I can highly recommend the O Canada House B & B. Friendly, well appointed, good breakfast and a great location. We took advantage of the hop on/off trolley to get an overview of the city and check out Granville Island. We found some great places to eat in the West End just off English Bay (Denham/Denman street). It is very casual with tons of choices. We went for greek in a place that seemed popular with locals Olympia. It isnt much to look at, but had some good saganaki! Also down the street is a place called Cupcakes (need I say more), dont miss the coconut cupcake with cream cheese frosting.
Ship: Rooms were More bigger/better than your average cruise (and some big city hotels as well). My last trip was on Seven Seas Voyager, so I did notice the Mariner basic room was smaller than Voyager but it is still comfortable with plenty of space. The shower was still the tub with a European-style shower head on a tube a bit inconvenient if you are over about 5ft 7. Lots of closet space for all the stuff you probably will over-pack (I know I did).
Food was excellent. We tried dinner everywhere and had great meals in Compass Rose, Signatures, and La Veranda. I think La Veranda was my favorite because it is a little more casual and the antipasti bar is a meal in itself. Signatures was also delicious from the truffle butter to the chocolate bon bons: presentation, service and food all excellent. Compass Rose also had great meals the two nights we ate there. It also seemed to have more of the bigger tables so you could sit with some other fellow passengers. We met all sorts of really interesting, nice people this way. Lattitudes fell short of expectations. The appetizers and dessert were well prepared, but the main dishes were overdone a bit and didnt match the quality of the other locations. We seemed to end up at the pool grill each day (even though it was a bit chilly they have some blankets poolside:) The Cajun chicken sandwich and blue cheese burger were both good bets. Breakfast in La Veranda was also good with lots of choices. The water refills were a little slow, but that is really the only service issue we ever noticed.
This itinerary had all sorts of things to do too much in fact, it was hard to choose. Our first day was at sea and there were lectures (be sure to catch the onboard anthropologist talk about Alaska she was great and does commentary up in the observation lounge during the trip as well), cooking demonstrations, wine tasting, art lectures (interesting with a bit of soft sell leading up to the auction), etc. Dont miss the hot chocolate up in the observation lounge!
Service Excellent! That pretty much covers it. Everyone is friendly and seems genuinely welcoming and always ready to chat. They work extremely hard and are always so gracious. Be sure to catch the staff show at the end of the trip we found this very entertaining and was a big hit with the audience! Other entertainment was fine some talented individuals (particularly the musicians at various venues) but the production numbers are a bit cheesy better than your average cruise, but not quite ready for Broadway/West End.
Disembarkation was a bit of a hassle. They got us off the ship first thing (all very efficient and friendly no problem there). Then the transfer service dropped us at the airport so early that we couldnt even check luggage for an hour and a half - very frustrating and a disappointing way to end the cruise. It would have been nice to have been able to catch a later transfer or to have had the option to add on some kind of 2 hour trip around Anchorage or at least an arrangement with the airport to let us check-in early so we can arrange our own trip into town. Alaska itinerary: Every port has sooooo many good options for things to do! General Tips: Bring binoculars (its the only way to get a close up view of a lot of the wildlife you will see, and glaciers as well). A close fitting hat (baseball hats will blow away in the wind) and coat it was very chilly near the glaciers and up on deck when the ship was moving. Bring layers a waterproof overcoat and a fleece pullover are good bets. Also if the naturalist or the schedule mentions that the ship is passing a point of interest get up to the observation lounge early! It fills up quickly. You should probably also bring your coat it is usually easier to get a good view on the upper deck. This is particularly true for the Hubbard Glacier day. Always keep that camera handy as well.
Ketchikan was our first stop and perhaps my favorite. There is a town walking tour/map available in the tourist office. We spent our morning wandering through shops Creek Street is very cute and worth a walk around (you will see 75% of these shops again, in every port). We also walked up to the totem pole center and the salmon hatchery/eagle center. They have two injured eagles that they care for its a great chance for a close up look, but believe me you will LOTS of eagles around each port. In the afternoon we booked a floatplane out to Misty Fjords. It was absolutely stunning and the floatplane was great to ride in. They do bounce a bit from time to time, but not badly and the scenery up there is amazing. They landing is so gentle and it was fun to get out and stand on the float. There are lots of vendors in the visitor info center if you dont want to book through the cruise ship. We booked through Regent since the return time was pretty close to the time we were supposed to be onboard. (I hear the zip line excursion was great as well, no time to try it though)
Tracy Arm this is a beautiful area. If you can sign up for the ship excursion that picks you up right on the ship, do it! The catamaran is a good size and a smooth ride. They have both indoor and outdoor viewing areas with plenty of room to move around. There are also enough snacks to last about 2 days! We got closer to the glaciers than the Mariner could, even though there was lots of ice so we didnt get too close. We could see both Sawyer and South Sawyer glaciers and lots of seals out on the icebergs. We also got a good look at the bear the captain was great about stopping to check out points of interest and wildlife. We also saw some sea lions and a whale on the way up to Juneau. The crew was great, with some fabulous live commentary! The catamaran lets you off right on the ship and you should have time for an afternoon excursion as well (as long as it is after 1:45).
I didnt see a lot of Juneau went right out for a helicopter ride to Mendenhall Glacier. I booked independently (although it was the same one the ship offered). The helicopter wasnt as interesting to me as the floatplane. They really cram you in, so it is hard to get a good view if you are in the middle seat. It is also a really quick ride (the basic version other versions may have been more interesting). It was really cool (literally and figuratively) to get out on the glacier, even if only for 15 minutes. I still had time on return to head up the Mt Roberts Tramway. This is a little pricey, but there are some hiking trails and amazing scenery up there. Also another place where they have an injured eagle out for visitors to get a closer look at.
Skagway was a cute town. It wont take long to explore but there are some great restored buildings and the usual bunch of shops. The White Pass train ride was pretty cool more interesting than I thought a 3 hour train ride would be actually. We saw 2 more bears really close up and got a very distant view of one of the mountain goats. Lots of snow still early in the season which made for stunning views.
Sitka is another great town to explore. I enjoyed our walk around town and the tour at the Bishops House. It feels more like a place that people live than some other stops. While there are plenty of shops, they arent all the same touristy jewelry shops you see in every other port. You definitely notice the Russian influence here. The afternoon Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest was great as well. We went in the afternoon so they brought us directly back on board the ship right on schedule. We saw lots of sea otters, sea lions and eagles. We also saw a couple of whales. Less